Pandemic prostitution increasingly profitable in Queens

When you see the women on certain street corners along Roosevelt Avenue in East Elmhurst, wearing mini skirts and sometimes schoolgirl skirts, you notice they’re often scanning their cell phones.

Law enforcement believes that’s because they’re making contact with customers who find the women’s “massage” services on a website called, or they’re simply steering them in off the street.

Aren’t we in the middle of a pandemic?

“I don’t believe that getting sick was one of their concerns,” said Miguel Collazo, special agent in charge of the Human Trafficking Task Force, Group 2, which looks at victims shuttled from China, Eurasia, and Russia, and then coerced into sex work.

“There are gangs that have seen this as a very lucrative way for them to make money, and you also have individuals,” Collazo said.

During our time watching one corner on Roosevelt Avenue, we saw several men arrive and head into a doorway about 50 feet from the main thoroughfare.

Jesus Londono spoke to PIX11 News about the activity on Roosevelt Avenue because he was upset about losing his mother, Maria, to COVID-19 last year and found the parade of women near certain corners offensive.

“They’re not contributing to the community,” Londono said, as the No. 7 elevated subway rattled overhead along Roosevelt Avenue. “What if they have COVID?”

PIX11 traveled to several Queens neighborhoods that we’ve visited before, in pre-pandemic days, and found signs of solicitation on 40th Road, off Main Street, in Flushing, where the NYPD Vice Squad had shut down a number of day spas in 2019 and slapped them with prostitution violations.

Maya Morena, an activist and college student who says she did some escort work before the pandemic, doesn’t believe all the women are being trafficked.

“It’s hard to regulate survival, which is what I see it as,” Morena said.

“I definitely think the environment is more different because of COVID,” Morena added. “There’s definitely a lot more desperation, in terms of street-based sex work.”

Still, Christopher Muller-Tabanera, national director of Heyrick Research, thinks at least 80% of the women involved in sex work are not doing so by choice.

“We’re talking about organized crime, network-type activity,” Muller-Tabanera said.

“Managers, bosses and traffickers are in this to make money,” he noted, “still wanting women to provide services despite the public health crisis.”

Trafficking can involve forced sex work or other forms of labor.

Agent Collazo said a Department of Justice study in 2015 found trafficking was a $32 billion industry.

“By all accounts, the new studies today are indicating that it is a $150 billion business,” Collazo said. “That’s almost a five-time increase.”

A study by Heyrick Research recently estimated there are 629 illicit massage businesses in all of New York City.

Queens, by far, had the most of any borough, with at least 269.


36 thoughts on “Pandemic prostitution increasingly profitable in Queens”

  1. This is stupid to say the least… Roosevelt Ave once you pass 76 street to 103rd it’s been like this for at least 40 years. They even sell you fake social security cards there… That shit-hole will never change, besides, NY is only getting worse..

  2. What is the fuckin problem with this it's the oldest profession in the world. Most states are pushing for worse drugs than pot to make legal, but want to ban getting laid & blow jobs. Make prostitution legal stop worrying about pot and free needles for junkies and safe house's for them to shoot up in. If it was legal they would be able to monitor them with HIV,AIDS,COVID & all other shots needed like Las Vegas. Maybe I'm asking for to much, this is New York it is run by democrat idiots.

  3. The only reason that the state is bitching about what these women do is because they’re not getting a cut of the action. This topic wouldn’t even be covered if the state was taxing the income of these women. It’s all about the money; always was, always will be.

  4. Don't care! Women have done this for years! No one forces them! I'm sure of this! Maybe a select few! It's easy money & that's why they do it! Starts off as stripper, then escorting.. With some, they turn to rap career! Robbery, assults, rape, murder, etc! The ones who do this for money, don't complain! Everyone has a choice! You can work 2 jobs!

  5. Who cares if they have covid, if you're scared of that then simply don't be one of their clients. Also human trafficking/forced sex work is very different than the majority of these sex workers who nobody is forcing to work. When you shut businesses down over a pandemic people will make money somehow, our politicians fueled this.

  6. This guy his last name starts with S, is a real dummy. He just cannot stay out of his daughter's business. She is 50. The guy is a dummy and probably helped kill a bunch of nice people. That said, his daughter is an f ing ho. Ha ha.

  7. It's propaganda that these women are trafficked. The actual percentage of trafficked women who work in these establishments is incredibly small. It's a rare occurrence, especially in places in New York. Most of these women are choosing this lifestyle. It's a shame this is still illegal.

  8. Fake news! Sex trafficking bull shit. Bitches be whoring on their own. Got guys for protection so somebody don't get service and take money back. Prostitution is the oldest trade known. Why a woman or man can't sell sex is only a religious opinion and as such. Is a violation of the 1st Amendment (make no rule respecting an establishment of religion).

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